Thursday, July 07, 2011

Baseball and politics: The games inside the games

In honor of MLB's All Star Game coming to Phoenix next week...

Politics, like baseball, has a "game within the game," things that don't show up in vote tallies or box scores but that can impact the parts of the game that do.

One example of that is "working the umpires."

In baseball, the umpires are independent of either team playing a game.  Their job is to be neutral and fair and the game works best when they are just that. 

That fact, however, doesn't stop players, coaches, and managers from wheedling, needling, flattering, criticizing, barking, whimpering, whatevering the umpires, trying to gain an edge on a close call.

It doesn't work (usually), but that doesn't stop them from trying - in a game where one run can mean a win, and one win can mean a championship, the potential payoff is worth the effort.

In politics, much the same activity takes place.

Consider the hubbub surrounding the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC).

Set up with the voters' passage of Prop 106 in 2000, the AIRC is responsible for neutrally and fairly laying out Arizona's legislative and Congressional districts.  The Commission is designed to be as neutral as possible - there are two Republican members, two Democratic members, and one Independent member who acts as the chairperson of the Commission.

The first time around, the Republicans didn't complain about the Commission much - they were ready and the ostensibly neutral Commission was neutral in name only.

The "Independent" chair was less "independent" and more "Republican in everything but registration," while the Republican lawyer for the AIRC, Lisa Hauser, spent more time ordering the other lawyers (and yes, the commissioners, too) around rather than giving them honest advice and letting the commissioners make their decisions.

In short, the Rs were well-prepared in 2001.

Fast forward a decade to 2011, and the Rs weren't so well-prepared.

Where in 2001, they had all of the pieces in place to control the redistricting process; in 2011, they didn't even have candidates for the Commission that they liked, and have been relying on gamesmanship to gain an edge up.

Since the beginning of the process, selecting candidates for the AIRC, the Republicans, particularly the leadership in the legislature, have been trying to obstruct the process or intimidate the participants.

The first gambit was a lawsuit to knock a few candidates out of the running.  That move sort of succeeded - two Republicans were removed from the pool of candidates and were replaced by people who were considered to be more pliable by the legislators.  However, the main target of the lawsuit, Independent candidate Paul Bender, survived the challenge (Bender is considered to have a brilliant legal mind.  He's also an Independent, possibly because he is liberal enough to consider the Democratic Party too conservative.

The second gambit was an attempt by the Republicans to game the process again by hiring the previously-mentioned Hauser as an attorney for the Commission.  It failed, but the Rs weren't (and aren't) done.

The next move was to criticize the selection of Strategic Telemetry (ST) as the mapping consultant.  ST has worked for some Democratic campaigns in the past, so the Republicans argued that they are too partisan.

The Republicans wanted National Demographics (ND), the mapping consultant for the last redistricting cycle.  The one that turned out pretty well for the Rs.

Maybe they were hoping for some of the same "luck" that they had last cycle.  Which was less "luck" than "planning" - the president of ND is a Republican and a "fellow" at the Rose Institute, a think tank dedicated to making sure that redistricting efforts across the country favor Republicans.

Now, they are demanding that the chair of the AIRC, Colleen Mathis, resign from the Commission because her husband Christopher served as the treasurer of a Democratic legislative campaign in 2010.

From Article 4, Section 2 of the Arizona Constitution, relating to the requirements for members/candidates of the AIRC -
Each member shall be a registered Arizona voter who has been continuously registered with the same political party or registered as unaffiliated with a political party for three or more years immediately preceding appointment, who is committed to applying the provisions of this section in an honest, independent and impartial fashion and to upholding public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process. Within the three years previous to appointment, members shall not have been appointed to, elected to, or a candidate for any other public office, including precinct committeeman or committeewoman but not including school board member or officer, and shall not have served as an officer of a political party, or served as a registered paid lobbyist or as an officer of a candidate's campaign committee.
Nothing is mentioned about spouses in the constitutional requirements, nor are there any questions relating to the involvement of spouses in campaign in the application for the Commission.

However, there *is* a question where the applicants have to certify that they are current on their taxes.

Rick Stertz, the member appointed by Senate President Russell Pearce (and perhaps not coincidentally, one of the replacements for the candidates knocked out of consideration by the lawsuit from Pearce and Kirk Adams, then the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives) so certified.

Even though it wasn't true.

And Stertz (or his spouse) hasn't worked for a candidate.  One does work for him though.

Hand-in-hand with the attacks on the Commission's independence has been the move to flood the meetings of the Commission with tea party types and other Republicans to make it seem like there is a groundswell of opposition to a fair and independent redistricting process. 

Last week, over 40 people, many self-identified as representing themselves but later identified as active Republicans, showed up to a Commission meeting in Tucson with the intent to disrupt the meeting. 

At this week's meeting on Friday, ~70 people showed up in Phoenix, but unlike the incident in Tucson, they were there to civilly support the work and the independence of the Commission.

Next week's meeting, on Wednesday July 13, is scheduled take place in Chandler at 9:30 a.m., though the specifics are subject to change (and the actual location hasn't been announced yet).

Another strong turnout of people who support and fair, transparent, and independent redistricting process is needed.  Civility in numbers can effectively counter incivility in numbers.

Later...

1 comment:

cpmaz said...

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